New COVID-19 cases expected to continue rising for weeks

The number of cases we have been seeing will continue to rise' -- Health Minister Adrian Dix. BC Government

There are no new deaths to report from COVID-19 pandemic since yesterday, but confirmed cases are way up.

In a press briefing Tuesday, March 24, public health officer Bonnie Henry reported there were 78 new cases since Monday, bringing the total infection rate to 617. That's 145 new cases over two days.

 Two new long term care homes have reported COVID-19 cases.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix warned that cases will continue to rise in the weeks ahead, and stressed the importance of social distancing and stopping all non-essential travel, work and social activities to contain the spread of the virus – an effort he said “is not end anytime soon.”

“The number of cases we have been seeing will continue to rise,” Dix said. “It will. The next few weeks will be very, very difficult. It will be some time before we see the change we are all working towards.”

The good news is that there are now 173 British Columbians who should be immune to the virus, at least in the short-term. That’s how many people who were infected with the virus who have recovered.

A number of those people who have recovered were health care or long-term care workers. They should now be able to go back to work and be immune to re-infection, at least in the short-term. (It’s still not clear how long immunity may last.)

B.C.’s death toll from COVID-19 has been comparatively high. But Henry pointed out that many of the deaths and the infections were concentrated at a single long-term care facility: Lynn Valley. There, a total of 42 residents and 21 staff have been infected.

“Ten of those deaths are all associated with one outbreak (at Lynn Valley),” Henry said.

Haro Park Lodge has also seen a spike in residents and staff testing positive for COVID-19 -- 15 and 21, respectively.

Two new long-term health care facilities have now had infections: Little Mountain Place and Evergreen Heights. In both cases, it is a single infection, so far.

In total, there are eight long-term care homes with infections of either staff or residents or both.

And another single source of transmission was the Pacific Dental Conference, which infected 32 people. One dentist that attended the conference died, but a coroner’s report has not yet confirmed whether the cause of death was the COVID-19 virus.

The province is currently testing 3,500 people per day and has opened up new hospital beds to deal with what is expected to be a large number of hospitalizations.

Health care workers are also being reassigned, following the cancellation of elective surgeries, to be seconded to work with COVID-19 patients. Retired nurses and doctors are also being asked to come back to work temporarily during the pandemic.

Here is an update on COVID-19 cases, with previous numbers from March 23 in brackets:

  • Hospitalized cases: 59 (33)
  • Patients in intensive care: 23 (14)
  • Deaths: 13 (13)
  • Recovered: 173 (100)

Cases by region:

  • Vancouver Coastal Health: 330 (248)
  • Fraser Health: 194 (150)
  • Island Health: 44 (39)
  • Interior Health: 41 ( 30)
  • Northern Health: 9 (5)